Mary of Rome, A Persistent Woman

TWELVE EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: MARTHA AND MARY : WORKING AND WORSHIPING

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Persis is mentioned only once in the Bible, but Paul’s regard for her is still relevant today. Do you think it is rare to find people who give themselves fully to the work of the Lord ~ inside and out?

In the Roman letter, Paul greets Persis as “my dear friend” (Romans 16:12). It is not clear how they were acquainted, but perhaps Persis, like Priscilla and Aquila, were expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius around AD 50 and then returned when tension eased. Or if a native of Asia Minor, Syrian Antioch, or another area where Paul ministered, she later may have relocated to Rome to build up the church there.

However it was that Persis came to Rome, Paul commends her not by saying she worked hard in the Lord but that she “worked very hard in the Lord” (Romans 16:12). The Greek word for “labor or worked” is “kopiao,” which means “to be wearied or spent with labor; faint from weariness; to toil hard” [The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the NT, p. 237]. It comes from a root word meaning “beating.” Thus, it has reference to an extreme “weariness as though one had been beaten” [Dr. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, vol. 3, p. 827]. Persis was a woman who gave herself fully to the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we read heroic accounts of people’s lives, let’s not be fooled into thinking it was because they did not have to press in, or it did not cost them something. Aside from her personal challenges, let’s consider some of the cultural difficulties Persis most likely had to face.

  • The vast, diverse city had a population numbering in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, which could have intimidated her.
  • Rome, though blessed materially, artistically, and educationally, was saturated with paganism.
  • Random persecution often threatened Roman Christians.
  • If Persis was an upper-class Roman, she enjoyed freedoms denied to other women. Still, overall male domination would have, to some degree, limited Persis and her ability to share the Gospel.

Despite the odds, Persis determined to serve Christ, having a persistent eternal perspective and a confident assurance of her reward. May we be like Persis! Regardless of the personal challenges, may we always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we know our labor in the Lord will not be in vain. Our lives are relevant and meaningful. May God grant us the endurance to “work very hard” in Him. Amen

In His grace,

Amanda

❀ Christward, A Hopeful and Joyful Embrace of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Bible study available at Amazon)